I’ve just poured a cup of tea, Earl Grey of course, and, as I wait for my tiered tray of goodies to arrive, I’m lost in thought at what Edinburgh is like. What should I write about? How does this place make me feel? Since arriving a few days ago, I’ve been searching for my story, but it hasn’t come to me. I’m overthinking it, as I do. So I sit, sipping tea in a sunlit room in the centre of a centuries old castle, thinking about how at this point in a new place I have a hook on what it means to me. What is the tale I should tell? Turns out, nothing I can say will have any importance here. I feel small here, but not in a bad way, in a way that gives great homage to Edinburgh’s history, how grand it is and how far it stretches back. What can I say that does a place like this justice?
As the tray of dainties, scones and tiny sandwiches arrive, I’m in full thinking mode. I stir my tea and as I raise it to my lips, I think of home. Not like I miss home, but that I feel at peace here, like I’m at home.
The week before I came here, I met up with my friend Jillian for a chat. She had recently visited Scotland and I wanted to know her thoughts about it. Her answer was that it felt familiar. She said her ancestors are from here, but that she never really thought much about her Scottish roots. But when she set foot on this craggy land, things were familiar, she felt a connection. And I think she’s spot on.
I too feel connected here, centered. My grandmother (nana) was a Scot, and a proud one at that. She used to regale us with stories of her Scottish ancestry, but we’re not sure how accurate they were. She was known to say her family was descended from Bonnie Prince Charlie and/or the Queen of Spain. Mmmhmm. Whether the stories are truth or fiction (who are we kidding, definitely fiction), she does pop up in my mind here. She said “bloody” a lot, made a mean stew, had a quick temper and a quick wit. Everyone called her “Bid,” which for some odd reason was short for Agnes. She was as Scottish as a haggis supper served with whiskey.
Wherever I walk in Edinburgh, there’s a little reminder of her. Seeing the tartan, hearing the bagpipes, tasting the shortbread, smelling the food, that all reminds me of her and makes me wish I knew more about my Scottish roots. And maybe that’s my story here. Instead of telling new tales, I need to go back and discover the tales of my ancestors and not let their stories sink away into the dark waters of Loch Ness. I think Ancestry.com is in my future.
As I finish my tea and cakes and finish jotting down my notes, I set off back to join the hoards and take a now familiar stroll down the Royal Mile. It was nice to have a couple of hours to relax, sip, nibble and reflect before venturing off on the next adventure: The Highlands. But before we get to that story, here’s a look at Edinburgh…
Old Town and The Royal Mile
Pretty sure I walked the Royal Mile 50 times. It never got old.
Crooked, creepy and full of skulls, the Greyfriars Kirkyard is tucked behind buildings and holds some of the most unsettling memorials I’ve seen. Gravestones are lying on the ground, there are empty stone squares with nothing but a few bricks and rough grass, and the buildings are macabre. It’s, as my nana would say, bloody menacing. I wouldn’t expect any less from a Scottish cemetery.
The castle is where I stopped for a quiet tea, but outside the tea rooms, it was bustling with Scotland’s military might. They even have a pet cemetery for soldiers’ dogs.
Scottish National Museum
A delightful place. I’ve never visited a museum that both old and young will adore equally. Plenty of interactive activities and exhibits for the young at heart, plenty of historically significant pieces for the culture lovers. You can easily spend a day in here.